Taken from www.jmc.com. This is the story behind jmc.
It is the tale of an envisioned father and entrepreneurial son, each of whom left an indelible stamp on how we see the world we live in today. As the forerunners of the modern tourist industry, Thomas Cook and his son John Mason Cook (JMC) not only challenged existing social boundaries but also created an institution, which to this day is built on the same purpose and values of its founding fathers.
At a time when tourism was regarded as unpopular, Thomas Cook struggled to make it acceptable, while John, who joined the family business in 1865, strove to make it respectable. Under John’s leadership, Thomas Cook & Son came to enjoy the patronage of royalty, assisted in the transportation of a British army up the Nile, opened up the New World, established a unique position in Egypt, and in effect became an extension of the British Empire.
Yet the roots of this story aren’t to be found on the shores of the Nile or in high society, but in the sleepy enclaves of Leicestershire, the Baptist church and the temperance movement.
Thomas Cook was born on 22 November 1808 in Melbourne, Derbyshire. After a number of jobs, Thomas turned his attention to preaching following his baptism in 1826. Over the next few years he toured the area as a village evangelist preaching the word of God, before in 1833 taking the temperance pledge and becoming an enthusiastic crusader against alcohol. In the same year Thomas married Marianne Mason and a year later she gave birth to John. The foundations of the Thomas Cook dynasty were now complete. All that was required was the spark.
It came in 1841 when, at the age of 32, Thomas was walking to Leicester from his home when he was gripped by a sudden idea. “What a glorious thing it would be if the newly-developed powers of railways and locomotion could be made subservient to the promotion of temperance!” By 1851 this idea had borne such fruit that Thomas Cook made the travel arrangements for some 150,000 visitors to see the Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park. During these early years Thomas’s profit margins were always small. All this changed when in 1865 John began to work with his father on a full time basis.
An intimidating figure, John had none of his father’s patience. Possessing an ability to organise on a large scale, John set about transforming his father’s business into a global name with what can best be described as missionary zeal.
While Thomas was a visionary, John was innovative and instinctively understood that travel was a matter of detail - and no detail was too small to escape his attention.
He was a fusspot to the point of obsession. Indeed, his limitless ability to take care of the smallest details was the key to his success, and something that is inherent in JMC today.
As a pioneer of tourism John learned to use his initiative and saw innovation as fundamental to the firm’s future success. He never slackened the pace of work, even during the winter, when his father - no slouch himself - confessed to feeling exhausted. It was a perfect match, Thomas providing the inspiration and John, the dynamism.
In 1871 John’s contribution to the firm was acknowledged when he was made a full partner. During these years, John created the business; he transformed his father’s vision into an efficient and profitable commercial organisation. Under John’s stewardship, the firm was becoming increasingly respectable and prosperous, boasting a client list from the heir to the throne to the humblest tradesman.
Yet the history of Thomas Cook & Son is not just a story of vision and endeavour but one of conflict of ideas and ideals. Thomas saw tourism as his mission to humanity; it was a means of emancipation for large numbers of people whose work was mundane and whose recreation was sought in taverns and pubs. For the iron-willed John, the aim was to forge a successful business, which could only be done, he believed, by attracting the ‘select’, more prosperous customer. The disagreement between father and son culminated in a bitter quarrel in 1878, after which John became the firm’s sole managing partner. Having assumed sole responsibility, John dominated the organisation through the sheer force of his personality. He was also a man of his age, believing strongly in the need for discipline in the office. He imposed rigorous work practices, inefficiency was not tolerated and all letters had to be answered by return of post. He fretted about the tiniest detail, from dirt on the windows to the quality of his managers’ top hats. Yet despite this, among his staff at Ludgate Circus John built up a genuine sense of belonging. Such an environment attracted able men who made a career in the travel business. Many stayed with Cook’s for life, working their way up the promotion ladder.
John’s pioneering spirit, attention to detail and determination to drive Thomas Cook & Son forward never diminished or wavered. Just as Thomas and John changed the face of the travel business, so this spirit of adventure and innovation is now reflected in the new company that proudly bears his initials. With its contemporary feel and its honest and refreshing personality, JMC is once again leading the way and setting a new standard of excellence within the tourism industry. No doubt John Mason Cook would have approved of that.